Bits ‘n’ Pieces: June 3, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

British cyber security firm Comparitech discovered a massive bot farm that produced 50,000 posts a week used for political manipulation related to the 2020 election and COVID-19. Researchers said they did not know the origins of the bot farm, but it might have been Russia, given the “.ru” domain.

President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.7 trillion job-creating infrastructure initiative for roads, bridges and other public works, much of it to be paid for with large tax increases affecting corporations and wealthy taxpayers. Republicans refuse to consider that payment plan, The New York Times reported. The Senate Republican proposal is one-seventh the cost of Biden’s proposal and has no mention of fixing veterans’ hospitals, repairing transit systems, removing lead pipes or otherwise laying the foundation for a clean energy economy. 

Biden noted that “corporate profits are the highest they’ve been in decades. And workers’ pay is the lowest level it’s been in 70 years.” Senate Republicans have said they support an infrastructure bill, but proposed paying for it with user fees (toll booths) and increased gas taxes, Americans for Tax Fairness stated. 

If Congress is looking for a few extra billion dollars, Elliot Nelgin, senior writer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggests looking at the military budget. He wrote in Scientific American that early this century the Pentagon canceled a dozen “ill-conceived, ineffective weapons programs that cost taxpayers $46 billion.” As well, since then there have been other comparable money drains — such as $1.5 trillion on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — the $67 billion Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and the $43 billion KC aerial refueling tanker. The U.S. military in 2019 exceeded that of the next 10 countries’ defense budgets combined, accounting for 38% of worldwide military spending. In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency gets a bit more than 1% of the appropriation the military gets, despite the defense leaders acknowledging that climate change is a key threat facing U.S. security.

Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal is said to be a response to not only COVID-19 economic disruption but also decades of “disinvestment,” USA Today reported. Under Biden’s proposal, the debt would rise to 117% of the size of the economy by 2031. Without changes, the debt would grow to 113%. Debt was at 106% in 1946, at the end of World War II.

The U.S. Senate vote was 54-35 and, while the majority lost, the 35 minority Republicans won using the filibuster to stop an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Politico sketched Plan B: Democrats are not trusting compromise to establish a bipartisan commission, since they already made compromises and were rebuffed; instead they may initiate a Democrat-led commission. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, characterized the dissent by colleagues as “short-term political gain,” since Republicans have said they’re worried that commission findings will negatively affect them in the 2022 elections. Republican Thomas Kean, head of the 9-11 commission, told The Guardian there was “no reason for turning it down,” but, “I guess some people were scared of what they’d find out.”

Other House-passed bills speculated to be stopped by the Republican filibuster include: the For the People Act (which ends voter suppression and gets big money out of politics), the Equality Act, The Dream Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, D.C. statehood and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

At the Q-Anon conference in Texas this last weekend a former Donald Trump attorney told attendees Trump “can simply be reinstated,” Business Insider reported. As well, Trump crony and event speaker Michael Flynn was asked if what happened in Myanmar, where a democratically elected government was overturned, can’t happen here. In a video clip that has since gone viral, Flynn said it should happen here; yet, he said reports that he called for a coup were “a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting.” (Flynn was previously found guilty of lying to the FBI, but was pardoned by Trump.)

The recent mass shooting in San Jose, Calif., was the 232nd mass shooting in the U.S. this year — that is 100 more mass shootings than occurred by this time in 2020, according to Democracy Now.

Blast from the past: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage; half shut afterwards.” — Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and scientist, 1706-1790.

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